Big Issues

“Intersectionality Is So Crucial”: A Conversation With Rudy Jean Rigg

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Sydney transformed into a rainbow city marking the first time WorldPride celebrations hit the southern hemisphere. Junkee spoke to TikTok spokesperson, ambassador for WorldPride and Rainbow History Class’s Rudy Jean Rigg about the celebrations, the history of Mardi Gras and the importance of intersectionality in reporting.

“It’s been incredible to come together and see such a diverse community in the one place. And I think that Sydney is a great city to host WorldPride,” Rudy Jean Rigg says.

“This energy that we’re all seeing now on the streets has been going for a year to a year and a half. So to see it come to fruition and actually be this whole explosion of beautiful moments within our community is just, it’s so joyous. It’s such a joyous time.”

@rainbowhistoryclass ♬ original sound – 🌈 Rainbow History Class 🌈

Rudy is a non-binary, autistic advocate, host, and writer. They, along with creative director and writer Hannah McElhinney, make up Rainbow History Class — the wildly successful social media account teaching queer and trans histories that nobody gets at school. 

The pair reaches masses of young people via TikTok, Instagram, and now their brand new book. They shine a light on everything from who the LGBTIQ royals were throughout history, to why horror movies seem so queer, to the history of Sydney’s Mardi Gras. 

@rainbowhistoryclass Lesbians are just too powerful! 📚🌈 #learnontiktok #historytok #monarchy #royalfamily #lgbtq #gaytiktok #historyfacts #todayilearned #historytiktok #lesbiansoftiktok #wlw #sapphic ♬ Fur Elise – Classical Music

Of course, Mardi Gras is currently one of Australia’s most famous and loved festivals, bringing together tens of thousands of visitors each year to celebrate a kaleidoscope of LGBTIQ self-expression. But it didn’t start that way. 

“Put really simply, the Mardi Gras we have today looks really different to the first Mardi Gras that we had in Australia,” Rudy explains. “The night that kicked this off was in 1978, and it was a night of a group from our community coming together in solidarity with our community over in America because of the Stonewall riots that had happened the previous year. What started as a demonstration of community, turned into a night of violence and police violence.”

According to Rudy, many people “don’t realise that there was a gay liberation movement or an LGBTIQ movement before 1978”. And while Mardi Gras is celebrated today by the community, even this year’s celebration was marred by incidents of hate and homophobia. Speaking to triple j, presenter and author Maria Thattil — whose brother and partner were victims of homophobic hate speech — called on the people happily waving their rainbow flags to actually step in as allies when they see incidents like this occur. 

Meanwhile, Rudy is turning to the media to do better in covering Pride by ensuring interviewees’ whole identities and experiences are properly elevated and represented. When speaking to the media during WorldPride, Rudy felt that their autism was being “erased”, with reporters apparently choosing to focus just on their queerness and pride. 


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A post shared by Rudy Jean Rigg (@rudyjeanrigg)

“I think it’s really important to keep someone’s experiences together because intersectionality is so crucial,” they explain to Junkee. “It’s the intersection between people’s different moving parts of their identities.”

Rudy believes that “it’s almost a duty that reporters in the press have” to ensure that people’s identities — “that we can’t separate” — are properly represented.